Ukraine’s repeated pleas for heavier weapons to fight off Russia’s invasion have found at least one receptive member among the seven NATO nations that met Tuesday in the Netherlands, pledging more help for the embattled country and support for the bids of Sweden and Finland to join to alliance .
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Ukraine’s neighbor to the west, said in no uncertain terms that NATO has fallen short in providing military aid, and he encouraged a stronger response.
“We have not done enough to defend Ukraine, to support Ukrainian people to defend their freedom and sovereignty. And this is why I urge you, I ask you to do much more to deliver weapons, artillery to Ukraine,” Morawiecki said. “Where is our credibility if Ukraine fails?”
The gathering co-hosted in The Hague by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen was also attended by the leaders of Belgium, Portugal, Romania and Latvia. Besides addressing support for Ukraine, the group endorsed Sweden and Finland’s candidacies to NATO.
“I strongly welcome that,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who also attended. “It’s an historic decision. It will strengthen them, it will strengthen us.”
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►A Moscow court extended the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner through at least July 2, Russian state-run news agency TASS reported Tuesday. Griner has been in custody since Feb. 17, accused of bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil into the country. The US Department of State considers her wrongfully detained
►Russia returned the remains of another 64 Ukrainians killed in the heroic last stand at the Azovstal steel plant in the weeks before Mariupol fell, authorities said Tuesday. The return comes one week after 160 bodies of Ukrainian soldiers were returned, about one-third of them from Azovstal.
►Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would be “ready to listen” to a UK appeal over the fate of two Britons sentenced to death for fighting for Ukraine, adding that no such request has been made.
►Russian natural gas deliveries through a key pipeline to Europe will drop by around 40% this year, state-controlled energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday, after Canadian sanctions over the war in Ukraine prevented German partner Siemens Energy from delivering overhauled equipment.
►Russia banned dozens of British media and defense figures from entering the country in response to what the country’s foreign ministry alleged was the British media’s skewed portrayal of Moscow and its actions in Ukraine.
US Open tennis tournament will allow Russians, Belarusians to play
Defending champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia and his qualifying compatriots will be allowed to play in the US Open beginning Aug. 29, the United States Tennis Association announced Tuesday.
Medvedev, the newly minted No. 1 men’s player in the world, and all athletes from Russia and Belarus have been banned from the Wimbledon tournament starting June 27 because of their countries’ role in the invasion of Ukraine.
The players were free to compete in the French Open that concluded June 5, leaving Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam event to bar Russians and Belarusians since the Kremlin launched its war on Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“We recognize that each organization has had to deal with unique circumstances that affect their decisions,” the USTA said in a statement. “Based on our own circumstances, the USTA will allow all eligible players, regardless of nationality, to compete at the 2022 US Open.”
‘We are not terrorists’: Zelenskyy says long-range weapons won’t be turned on Russian cities
Ukraine won’t use any long-range missile systems the West might provide to strike civilian neighborhoods in Russia, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday.
Zelenskyy spoke remotely to Danish media on the eve of a meeting of global defense ministers in Brussels that could determine the heft and amount of weaponry supporting nations will provide Ukraine’s out-gunned but unwavering military. Ukraine cities have been pounded from a distance by long-range Russian weapons his military can’t reach.
“We are not interested in shelling civilians, we are not terrorists,” Zelenskyy said. “We need the right weapons … that work at such a distance.”
Zelenskyy said he was willing to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with or without mediators, on ending the war and withdrawing Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.
“Only President Putin decides whether the Russian army will stop or not,” Zelenskyy said. “In Russia there is one person who decides absolutely everything for the citizens of Russia and for the Russian military.”
US to build temporary silos for shipping Ukraine grain
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the United States is working with partners to build temporary silos to get 20 million tons of grain out of Ukraine in an effort to bring down food prices. Russians are blocking millions of tons of grain from being exported from Ukraine, which has led to food shortages in Africa and Asia. Biden said temporary silos will be built on the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland. From there, Biden said the grain can then be shipped around the world.
“What Putin’s war has done is not only try to wipe out the culture of Ukrainians, decimate people and commit numerable war crimes,” Biden said, “but he’s also prevented the grain, thousands of tons of grain that are locked up in those silos ready to be exported.”
Separatists warn Ukraine fighters to ‘surrender or die’
The Russian Defense Ministry pledged to open a humanitarian corridor out of the embattled eastern Ukraine city of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday for hundreds of civilians holed up at a chemical plant and urged Ukrainian fighters “to stop senseless resistance and lay down their arms.”
Eduard Basurin, spokesman for pro-Russian separatists in the region, said Ukraine fighters must “surrender or die.”
Ukraine authorities say about 500 civilians have sought refuge at the Azole plant amid Russia’s aggressive bombing campaign of the city. Russia claims hundreds of fighters are also hiding at the plant.
Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, guaranteed the “preservation of life” in compliance with Geneva Convention rules for prisoners of war.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian and Ukrainian forces are in a fierce struggle for “literally every meter” of the city, about 80% of which is now controlled by the Russian side.
Pope Francis blasts Russian ‘ferocity and cruelty’
Pope Francis praised the courage of Ukrainians, chastised NATO and provided withering criticism for Russia’s aggression in excerpts from an interview with multiple news outlets last month published Tuesday in Italy’s La Stampa daily. Francis blasted the “ferocity and cruelty” of Russian troops and credited Ukrainians with “heroism” and “courage” for the staunch defense of their country. Francis said NATO was not blameless, citing the military alliance’s eastern expansion.
“The Russians thought it’d be over in a week. But they miscalculated,” Francis said. “They found a courageous people, a people who are fighting to survive and have a history of fighting.”
Lives destroyed: Ukrainians’ stories of loved ones lost in the war
Thousands of civilians have been killed in the Russian war on Ukraine. Countless more have been left alone in the aftermath, figuring out how to move forward when those they loved most are gone. Anna Priymenko, 37, lost her only brother and three nephews to the war. USA TODAY interviewed Priymenko and others, assembling the stories behind some of the lives destroyed and devastated by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Read their stories here.
“It is clear that this time may pass, it may settle down a little, but … it will never be the way it was. It will never be,” Priymenko told USA TODAY.
– Karina Zaiets, Janie Haseman and Katelyn Ferral
12,000 residents remain in embattled Sievierodonetsk, a city of 100,000
Russian troops control 80% of the besieged city of Sievierodonetsk and have destroyed all three bridges out, but evacuations of the wounded are continuing, a Ukraine official said Tuesday. Sievierodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk are the last in Luhansk Oblast to avoid full capture by Russian troops. Luhansk regional governor, Serhii Haidai, said Ukrainian forces have been pushed out to the industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk because of Russia’s “scorched earth method.”
About 12,000 people remain in Sievierodonetsk, a city with a pre-war population of 100,000. More than 500 civilians are holing up in a chemical plant that is being relentlessly pounded by the Russians, according to Haidai. Russian-backed separatists say scores of Ukraine soldiers are also hiding in the plant.
Russian military forces have made progress in capturing the Donbas, now controlling over 95% of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk, the two territories that make up the region.
Ukraine to make pitch for much-needed weaponry
US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin will host defense ministers from around the world Wednesday in Brussels for the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov will make his pitch for more weapons, and Austin said the group will try to ensure Ukraine gets what it needs to repel Russia’s invasion. The ministers will also help Ukraine “build and sustain robust defenses” so it can defend itself in the future.
“We’ll continue to work to get as much as we can there as fast as we can in order to help them be successful,” Austin said.
India, China provide large markets for Russian energy exports that fund war
Despite Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is finding ample markets for its energy products, keeping the Kremlin’s war machine well funded.
China, India and other Asian nations are becoming an increasingly vital source of oil revenue for Moscow, disregarding strong pressure from the US not to increase their purchases as the European Union and other allies cut off energy imports from Russia in line with the sanctions. Those sales are boosting Russian export profits at a time when Washington and its allies are trying to limit them.
The Finland-based Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air said Monday that Russia has received about 93 billion euros ($97.4 billion) in revenue from the sale of oil, natural gas and coal since the Feb. 24 invasion. China has overtaken Germany as the biggest buyer, spending 12.6 billion over that time. Germany, which is trying to wean itself from a dependency on Russian energy, has spent 12.1 billion euros.
“Revenue from fossil fuel exports is the key enabler of Russia’s military buildup and aggression, providing 40% of federal budget revenue,” the center said.
Contributing: The Associated Press